Some time ago I visited IKEA. Nobody can claim that their products are technical paragons of our age. Nor stylistic icons. But they offer a fine mix of product, service, marketing and selling.

I had bought a desk from them with electric height adjustment six weeks before.

The IKEA version costs much less than rival products. But, for me, still expensive.

Five weeks later the height adjust switch stopped working. So, back to IKEA to ask for a replacement.

In South Africa this involves a heated exchange about why it broke, and who broke it. I disassembled the desk, put it in the car, and at 8 PM I stopped at IKEA, with head of steam ready to go.

I was number 192 in the queue. They were still dealing with number 186. I left to find some coffee. A few moments later I returned as my number came up.

I explained the problem. She asked me if I had the invoice. Three minutes later she asked me to sit down and wait while they brought out a complete new replacement. No nonsense about repairing the old one. No quiz about how I had broken it.

I left IKEA at 8:30PM, new desk in car. My office was back to normal by 9PM.

I raise this because "best" isn't often a feature of the product alone.

Best is a mix of product, service, convenience, price, and relationship. A product might win hands down on features or durability. But it is only as good as the service that backs it.

People buy from us for many reasons. The quality of the actual product is just one. IKEA understands that. We scoff at their products. But their huge parking area is full most days. They understand that their mix of convenience, price, product, and service works.

Warm regards

Peter Carruthers